Two exciting young welterweight strikers will battle this Saturday night (May 19, 2012) as Nah-Shon Burrell takes on Chris Spang in the opening bout of the Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Cormier" main card in San Jose, California.
Burrell has quietly gone 3-0 under the Strikeforce banner and has been one of the young welterweights pegged to potentially make a big splash in the promotion. This is his first high profile opportunity and he's really hoping to make the most of it on the national stage.
Spang is coming off a tough loss, but he's got heart and took this fight on short notice. He's got a family history of terrific performance as his brother Andreas will be fighting for the Bellator season six middleweight tournament championship the day before. Spang has terrific kickboxing and will have the potential to land some very big strikes from a distance at any moment.
Will Burrell be able to "Rock-N-Roll" the short-notice Spang? Will Spang's powerful kickboxing be the equalizer on the feet? What's the key to victory for both young welterweights on Saturday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 8-1 overall, 3-0 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Nah-Shon Burrell has not been fighting professionally long, not even two years in total. After losing his third professional fight in 2010, he hasn't looked back since. The Pennsylvania native tore up the local scene on the east coast and was already fighting in Strikeforce before he'd even been a professional for a full calender year.
He defeated Joe Ray in his Strikeforce debut via unanimous decision but his coming out party was against Lukasz Les where he finished the Polish fighter in the second round via leg kicks and punches.
In his last bout against James Terry, he did not look particularly impressive, especially considering Terry normally competes at lightweight, winning a split decision which was relatively controversial and put a damper on his rise through the ranks. He was originally slated to take on Bobby Voelker, but an injury allowed Spang to step in.
How he gets it done: Burrell doesn't have the same technique as Spang at least in the kicking department, but he's just a powerful and he's very aggressive. Expect to see him try to crowd Spang in the stand-up department and try to swarm the Swede with combinations and flurries of punches.
Burrell is very powerful and he's got what takes to hurt Spang with his punches as long as he can land a big shot.
Something else going for Burrell is perhaps the ground. He's not well-versed in submissions, but he's got some decent wrestling ability and the potential to take Spang down and really beat on him on the canvas. If he gets in any trouble on the feet, look for Burrell to close the distance and shoot for takedowns. He's got some heavy ground and pound and if he can keep Spang on his back, he could put a real hurting on him.
Record: 4-1 overall, 0-1 in Strikeforce
Key Wins: Joe Ray (Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum)
Key Losses: Ricky Legere (Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine)
How he got here: The younger brother of Bellator middleweight alternate finalist Andreas Spang, Chris Spang also possesses some terrific striking skills. "The Kiss" got his start in his native Sweden, winning via first round TKO.
He followed that first win up with a pair of dominant first minute knockouts which earned him an opportunity to compete in Strikeforce where he would make his debut in the final Challengers show, defeating Joe Ray in his first career fight to go to the judges.
In his last bout, Spang would drop a decision to Ricky Legere but when Bobby Voelker went down with an injury, he was game enough to step up on short notice and take on Burrell.
How he gets it done: Spang needs to utilize what works best for him, which is his kicks and knees. He's got some very powerful strikes from a distance, so that's where he needs to keep it.
I'd prefer to see Spang avoid the pocket, instead really peppering Burrell with kicks to the legs and body at first and once Burrell starts to get concerned about the lower kicks, that's when he goes high. If Burrell leaves an opening or drops his hands, Spang needs to give him a kiss of death with a head kick to the face.
It doesn't matter how great someone's chin is, if he lands one of his big kicks to the head, that person is going down.
If the fights gets up close, expect to see Spang throw some brutal knees. He's finished men with knees before so that will always be a threat. He should be cautious if the fight gets too close, however, because he really wants to avoid the ground.
Fight X-Factor: The X-Factor for this fight has to be the short notice that Spang took for the fight. He's coming off a loss to a less notable fighter than Burrell and is taking this fight with very little time to prepare.
Spang is going to need everything he's got to win and if he's not fully prepared to take on Burrell, this one could get ugly in a hurry. One also has to wonder just how much he's stayed in shape between fights because he didn't give himself enough time to get into "fight shape" with the short notice. Burrell is a very dangerous fighter and it's going to be a very tough draw for Spang even if he'd had a full fight camp to prepare considering his overall lack of experience.
Bottom Line: Both of these guys are exciting fighters, they hit hard and they have the potential to finish a fight at any moment if they can connect with power. Spang has the full package in the striking department while Burrell is extremely aggressive and capable of swarming even the most technical opponents and overwhelming them. I expect this fight to be finished and if it's not, then I expect it to be a three round striking war.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Cormier?" Tell us your predictions in the comments below!